We decided to kick off the new year with a Great Pyrenees puppy we named Heidi. Not something to be taken lightly for sure but something we felt we were ready for. The Pyrenees is a Livestock Guard Dog (LGD) from the Pyrenees Mountain region of France that was bred for centuries to protect roving livestock from predators. They live and bond with the flock or herd and consider it their job 24/7 to make sure their charges come to no harm. According to the AKC breed standard "the Great Pyrenees is confident, gentle, and affectionate. While territorial and protective of his flock or family when necessary, his general demeanor is one of quiet composure, both patient and tolerant. He is strong willed, independent and somewhat reserved, yet attentive, fearless and loyal to his charges both human and animal". They are generally good decision makers and problem solvers. At 25 to 32 inches tall and weighing 100 pounds or more, they have the size and attitude to back up any threat they make make toward an unwanted intruder.
We are not new to dogs. We have 4 adult dogs at the moment. Three of them are Italian Spinoni, a pointing breed from Italy. They live to hunt the fields, woods and brush piles around our farm. "There has just GOT to be a bird in there somewhere " is their mantra. These dogs are fun-loving, clownish and full of energy. We take walks and rides around the farm and they never get enough. There is always one more bird out there somewhere. My spinoni bark to alert me of...well everything. Friends, foes, dogs barking over the hill, airplanes, cats fighting, you name it they are more than happy to tell you about it. My 10-year-old Spinone, Moose, seems particularly fond of barking at important threats such as if you make the salt in the salt-shaker tinkle too loudly. He is most happy to bark with in the safety of the house or dog run but exposed out in the open, not so much. This is, after all, the dog that tried to give a stuffed toy to a rabbit that was eyeing our veggie garden. Suffice it to say these dogs are PETS. Great Pyrenees, although they make great companions, are working dogs first and foremost and they seem to take their job seriously.
The very first thing I learned about our white, fluffy, cuddly ball of fur was that it was going to be VERY difficult to make the mental switch from pet owner to working LGD owner. To make matters worse it is January, albeit a warmer than usual one and here I sit with a 6 week old puppy. I sought much advice from other LGD owners, some conflicting, but all helpful in getting on the road to producing a working dog. Much advice centered around getting her into the barn near or with the goats ASAP but definitely OUT of the house. But it's JANUARY in West Virginia! Other folks said not-to-worry,and that all will be fine if she stays in the house a while. What to do??
Compromise. That's what. Heidi spent the first four days of week one in the house bonding with her human herd while the temperatures refused to go above 20 degrees. Heidi exhibited her independent nature early on. I thought it would be useful to at least introduce her to a cozy crate in the living room so that she could be close to us. Heidi though made it CLEAR that she preferred to lie at the back sliding glass door on the cold bare floor so she could look out, wistfully even, at the snow. But soon she'd come trotting into the living room and lie down at our feet by our recliners. AWWWW!
After 4 days, the cold weather retreated a bit so I sucked it up and made her a place in the goat barn with my three younger does. It is a cozy retreat with a heat lamp where she can escape the goats to eat and rest. Here she can comfortably spend her days bonding with goats. The goats think she is an alien from Mars. They charge at her but are mostly bluffing, doing their best to show the puppy who is in charge. As I sit here typing this on her 7th week birthday, she is getting a bit bolder and has barked at one of the goats for the first time. I wonder what the next seven days will bring?? Stay tuned!